Up until a few months ago, nobody gave two shits about Isaiah Rashad.
That’s roughly when word leaked that he reportedly was signing to TDE*. Once that happened, let the Internet circle jerk begin.
Not to say it wasn’t warranted since TDE is the preeminent label running rap right now. So, when they say, “we’re putting our name and money on this guy” everyone’s bound to pay attention. The shit just looks funny because the most anyone’s truly written about the guy was to say “Chattanooga rapper,” “TDE” and sprinkle in a few adjectives. And since he is from Chatt, which is nearby enough to Nashville, everybody said “why aren’t you posting his material?”
Plain and simple: he wasn’t exactly ready then, not in my humble opinion.
We posted “Mani Lux” in December 2012 and it frustrated me because it got a whole of two comments. Before that, we posted his feature with Ducko on “#IGetIt” – which, to me, was probably the first track that made me say “okay, he’s got that ‘it.'” Still, nobody gave a shit.
And I wasn’t sure he was ready for all the attention then either.
After doing this online thing for roughly a dozen years, I’ve learned the ultimate importance of first impressions and the concept’s always a hard one for artists to grasp when I say we won’t post their material yet. If I know one thing about how the rap Internuts work, people will let a first listen determine if they’ll ever click play on an artist’s songs in the future. If that initial experience isn’t good? It’s going to take a lot of coaxing to get them to try MC Joe Blow’s material again. The closest analogy available comes from Cliff Huxtable and his ageless wisdom given to Dabnis Brickey regarding a steak presented on a garbage can lid.
In all aspects, presentation is key.
Believe it or not, I went through it with Chance’s 10-Day tape. The glimpses were there but the project still had rough edges. No need touting it and risk turning people away from believing in his material. I only told this to one other cat and he can confirm the convo. So, we waited and what followed was Acid Rap aka the top project of this year. The rough edges were now polished and ready for presentation. Artists benefit more from being given room to grow, not from having expectations loaded on their shoulders.
I was half-joking, half-amped last night when I saw Grande made an appearance on BET yesterday. Last year at this exact time, nobody knew who he was or gave two shits about him either. But, let me tell you one behind-the-scenes thing happening circa August ’12: I made a vow to Grande and co. that they were my top artist selection for A3C and told them if they weren’t provided means to get there then we, as in TSS, wouldn’t be there. Thankfully, it worked out, Grande later signed with Fool’s Gold and he’s writing his history as we speak.
But, that’s not to say I could’ve been totally wrong.
I’ve made mention of the idea that fools rush in when it comes to new artists. Everybody wants to be the first one to day “I heard him before anyone! He’s going to be great!” and soon others follow. With all the attention, the stray hype soon causes everything to crumble before the artist can even gain momentum. But let’s say they do manage to justify early praise. As is usually the case, the same people who propped the artists up are usually the first to tear them down, citing the often used “I liked his old stuff better. He fell off.” All the equivalent of being doomed by your own success.
I don’t know what TDE saw in Zay. I’ve only casually kept up with his material because we share a couple of friends and they’ve made sure I knew who he was before he suddenly became a somebody. The “it” was there though and I’m glad TDE saw it, too. In fact, yesterday Kendrick did give him one hell of a cosign by dubbing him “raw talent” and linking to “I Shot You Down.”
The song personifies what Isaiah is right now: a starved young Black male who sees food for the taking. Other MCs may want to steer clear for the time being**. Fans and critics, too. For now, just sit back and let Top Dawg nurture his talents. Let him find his way and enjoy the material is spawns.
* — Has anyone officially stated he was signed? Is it public record? Or is this an Internet hoax sort of like how Morgan Freeman dies every six months? I hope it’s true but I don’t know if it is or it’s just been referenced so many times that his signing became true because “they said.” You know, “they said” everything but nobody’s ever able to pinpoint exactly who “they” is. Never. Not in any case whatsoever.
** – On some Tennessee shit, I couldn’t help but let out an “oh shit” when I heard what sounds like a shot at Dee Goodz. My personal opinion? Well, didn’t Kendrick say something the spirit of competition still being alive in rap?